Normally triggered by stress or fear, hyperventilation refers to excessive
breathing. As a person breaths, they exhale carbon dioxide. If a person begins
to breath too rapidly and deeply, they excessively vent carbon dioxide.
When the carbon dioxide content in the body is sufficiently reduced, it triggers
a feeling of suffocation. This feeling results in continued hyperventilation.
The symptoms of hyperventilation are similar to those of hypoxia, including
headache, drowsiness, lightheadedness, dizziness, numbness of the fingers and
toes, and euphoria. The skin often appears pale and clammy, and muscle spasms
However, because there is no oxygen deficiency, a person who is hyperventilating
will not show cyanosis.
Recovery from hyperventilation requires the individual to consciously slow their
breathing. If hyperventilation is not controlled, it can result in
unconsciousness. In this case, the brain will regulate breathing at a normal rate
and recovery is normally rapid.